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Regulating money spent on politics eventually has to mean regulating time and effort spent on politics.

February 28, 2014

We’ve already seen some of that, haven’t we? Bloggers or other private citizens whose support of a candidate or issue might “run afoul” of campaign finance laws, because of the perceived value of their support?

I’m sure I read something about that. I’ll do some research later.

Anyway, that is the end result of campaign finance laws. Not just dollars spent, but value spent.

The big hair that needs splitting: the difference between issue advocacy – which normal people call “voicing an opinion” – and electioneering.

According to the law, there’s a big difference between supporting an issue, and supporting a candidate who is supporting that issue.

And since we are going to split that hair – supporting an issue is okay, but supporting a candidate means you’re breaking the rules – somebody has to wield the knife.

Which leads us to:

Don’t Install the IRS as the Nation’s Political Speech Regulator

Well, duh. It’s kind of amazing that we even have to say that.

Of course, the next question is: who should we install as the nation’s “political speech regulator?” If we’re going to regulate speech, which we’ve apparently decided to do, then somebody has to enforce it.

Who shall it be?

And, just let me warn you: no matter who it is, they’ll be in the control of the reigning political party, whichever party that is.

UPDATE – maybe I should just quickly note two possible “solutions” that I like.

  • “Solution” #1: liberalize campaign finance laws, making money easier for candidates to get and spend, thus reducing the value of campaign contributions.
  • “Solution” #2: reduce the power of government to screw around with our businesses and lives, thus reducing the incentive to spend vast amounts of money on political candidates.

I use the quote marks because, since government will always have power, it will always attract both money and corruption. There is no “solution” to that. If your “solution” is to limit my freedom to engage in politics, then you are giving more power to the government, which will attract even more money and corruption.

So don’t.

5 Comments
  1. Lemuel Vargas permalink
    March 2, 2014 12:45 am

    How about Congress (specifically the Lower House) to become the Nation’s Speech Regulator? You did not stipulate if the speech regulator will be a person per se or an organization (which is what Congress is.)

  2. March 2, 2014 2:06 pm

    Well, Congress already is, I suppose. They’re the ones making the laws, and then the executive branch decides how to enforce the laws. But my real point is: we shouldn’t have a speech regulator at all.

  3. March 4, 2014 6:25 am

    Democrats in Congress took a crack at it when they called for the nation to tone down the rhetoric after the shootings in Tucson, Arizona that injured Gabrielle Giffords. Of course, they had just lost the House to the GOP. Trying to regulate political discourse doesn’t rule out seizing opportunity, does it?

  4. wolfwalker permalink
    March 4, 2014 8:44 am

    “And, just let me warn you: no matter who it is, they’ll be in the control of the reigning political party, whichever party that is.”

    Not necessarily. Who controlled the bureaucracy while George Bush was President? The Democrats did — because the vast majority of bureaucrats are Democrats. They saw nothing wrong with doing their job in such a way as to benefit the party they supported, regardless of the orders that were coming from the White House. I think any federal ‘political speech regulation agency’ will also be dominated by adherents of one party, who issue decisions biased in favor of the party they support, and that won’t change just because the opposition wins a presidential election.

  5. March 4, 2014 8:55 am

    I’m for option #2 – give government less power. However, as Instapundit says, “where’s the graft in that!” Other than the Tea Party, who in Washington would throw away their own power. And as PJ O’Rourke so eloquently noted, “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

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